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Effective Meetings: Close Attention to Detail Makes the Difference

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 5/23/2014

If you ask David Thompson and Steven Twait, they’ll tell you that an alliance manager must learn how to plan and lead an effective meeting. Considering details like the seating chart, refreshments, ambience, and even the timing of breaks can make the difference between creating an energized meeting and a dead zone. Psychologist and business consultant, Bart Wendell agrees it’s important to tend to the needs of meeting attendees. In addition, there are other needs and details a great leader must consider when leading a meeting.

In his book, “Hot Leaders, Cool Facilitators,” Wendell says great leaders understand how to guide a meeting through the range of temperatures and energy types that foster productivity and congeniality. Wendell draws from Eastern philosophy’s understanding of how energy moves throughout the body and affects the mind, as well as from the psychological tool, the Enneagram. He has used this understanding to facilitate successful meetings with The International Monetary Fund, NPR, PBS, The Ford Foundation, The United States Air Force Academy, and others.

“If you enter the conference room without some picture of how meetings actually unfold, you are wading into a potential morass. Great leaders know what to look and listen for in a meeting. They know how to make sense of the events unfolding before them. A great leader can think on the fly, and knows when to amp things up or slow them down,” Wendell writes in his book.

To develop this skill, you need to understand and recognize the predictable scenarios that play out when meeting participants' energy runs hot to cool. To find the right temperature, you must discern the energetic needs of the attendees. Finding the right balance between tension and comfort for the people in the room will lead to success.

“People sometimes need to feel the heat that surfaces during debate, or they need the pressure that surfaces when a meeting leader pushes them. People also need to cool down and think. Finally, people need to feel just warm enough to have authentic conversations about how to work together,” Wendell writes. He calls this, “collection of sweet spots,” the Engaged Field. “In the Engaged Field, people truly care about and ‘buy in’ to what happens. Meeting participants lean forward in their seats, and let their best work begin to unfold.”


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